Langley, Port to work on harbor issues

The Langley Marina is packed during a recent weekday. Port of South Whidbey commissioners have agreed to meet with Langley city officials to iron out differences over marina redevelopment. - Brian Kelly
The Langley Marina is packed during a recent weekday. Port of South Whidbey commissioners have agreed to meet with Langley city officials to iron out differences over marina redevelopment.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

Port of South Whidbey commissioners have agreed to a mediated public session with the city of Langley officials to resolve any disputes over the boat harbor project and other port-city issues.

The two sides have not always seen eye-to-eye in their collaboration to improve the harbor. But both sides are making progress to set aside their differences and move forward with the project.

Port commissioners agreed to meet with the city during a special port meeting Aug. 19. The decision followed a short commissioners retreat.

Earlier this month, Langley officials asked the port to meet at a public session, mediated by a neutral third-party.

Port commissioner Lynae Slinden said a mediated meeting would be an opportunity to start anew, “to come to the table as a group and try and find some common ground that sets common goals.”

“We need to make it clear that we’re trying to work together,” Slinden said.

“I think a new approach is something that we should entertain,” she said.

Port commissioner Gene Sears has volunteered to work out the details of the meeting with Walt Blackford, Langley’s city administrator. He will report back to his port counterparts about when the meeting will be held, who will mediate the meeting, and other details at a later date.

Ed Field, the port’s manager, said their has been a lot of discussion between the two groups about what steps they should take on the Langley boat harbor redevelopment project. But both parties agree improvement of the harbor would be a key asset for Langley and South Whidbey.

The port co-owns two parcels of land on which the boat ramp sits, and has $100,000 dollars designated specifically for ramp improvements.

At last week’s meeting, port commissioners also decided to allocate $4,400, the first portion of the already agreed upon funding, to help move the harbor project along.

Port commissioners had voted in July to increase their contribution to the project - roughly an additional $100,000. But Field said action concerning those funds has been halted until the two groups agree on an approach to provide the funding.

“We needed some sort of valid funding mechanism to allow that money to be spent on the park since we don’t have ownership in the park,” Field said.

City and port officials met earlier this year to discuss possibilities for the additional funding. But after that, Fields says, the city indicated they didn’t want to address the funding issue at that time.

Timing was likely a large factor in the decision. The city would have had to include details of the extra funding in a proposal to get state grant money to pay for improvements at the Langley harbor. But the grant application has a fast-approaching Sept. 1 deadline.

As for now, Slinden said: “I think the stage is pretty much set for the grant application.”

“We are still a co-applicant but they are the leading agency,” she said. “And we are helping to fund what we can.”

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